Makes case for growing blue economy
By Godwin Oritse
THE African Import-Export Bank Afreximbank has said that its intervention funding for the expansion of the Nigerian port facilities currently stands at N152billion in the last three years.
Speaking at the just-concluded NECCIPR roundtable conference held in Lagos last week, President of the bank Mr Benedict Oramah, said that the Bank would support countries, particularly the coastal states that will embrace the Blue Economy concept to grow and develop their economies.
The ports that have benefitted from Afreximbank are Nigeria’s Onne Port as well as Gabon and Cote d’Ivoire ports.
Although the bank was silent on the details of its intervention in each of the countries, it, however, stated that it also financed vessels for security patrol of offshore platforms and hotels in Cape Verde.
Oramah who was represented by Mr Peter Adeshola Olowononi, Head of Client Relations at the bank, also said that Africa’s seas and oceans represent major assets with the potential to accelerate the development of African economies.
According to him, Afreximbank continues to push the limits in Africa to promote intra and extra African trade.
He explained that the Blue Economy, BE, also referred to as the ocean or maritime economy, is a concept which leverages the strength of the maritime ecosystem including fishing, shipping and maritime transport; coastal tourism; marine energy (fossil and renewable); pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, genetic resources and general sea-based products for economic growth and development.
The African Union (AU) has recognized the importance of the BE and has included it in its Agenda 2063, which is a blueprint for the development of the continent for the next few decades.
In particular, the BE was given prominence through the adoption of the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) by the AU.
He stated: “For Afreximbank, the BE concept is very relevant as it is closely aligned to the Bank’s mandate of promoting and expanding intra and extra-African trade through diversification and development of the continent’s trade. More than 66 per cent of the Afreximbank’s beneficiary member countries, BMCs, are coastal and or Small Island and the Developing States, SIDS, and their economies are to a large extent, dependent on the sea or ocean for sustenance.
“A closer look at the African continent reveals that a total of 38 countries are coastal countries, including the small island states. Most of the countries are using the coast to their advantage through the development of the fishery sector and aquaculture; tourism; submarine activities; shipping and port activities etc.
“International trade is very critical to many African economies with over 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports conducted by sea.
‘‘Whilst over 46 per cent of Africans live in absolute poverty (a figure that is still rising) fish makes a vital contribution to the food and nutritional security of over 200 million Africans and provides income for over 10 million according to the African Union, 2050 African Integrated Marine Strategy.
“The African port situation is characterised by a large number of small ports, each with a capacity of less than one million twenty-foot equivalent unit (the size of a container). In addition, whilst African owned ships account for about 1.2 per cent of world shipping by number and about 0.9 per cent by gross tonnage, the ports handle only six per cent of worldwide water-borne cargo traffic and approximately three per cent of the worldwide container traffic according to the African Union, 2050 African Integrated Marine Strategy.
“African coastal waters contain some of the richest fisheries. The Gulf of Guinea, the Indian Ocean and the coastal waters of East Africa include some of the world’s richest tuna fishing grounds. The potential for aquaculture in Africa is enormous. Egypt, for example, has experienced a spectacular aquaculture growth and tilapia is now the least expensive animal-sourced food available and an important element of the diets of many Egyptians.
“In Africa, the fisheries and aquaculture sector employs about 12.3 million people. Half of the 12.3 million people employed in the whole fisheries sector are fishers, 4.9 million (42.4 per cent) are processors and 0.9 million (7.5 per cent) work in fish farming. More than half of the fishers (55 per cent) are employed in inland fisheries whereas the largest share of processors (42 per cent) works in marine artisanal fisheries followed by 30 per cent in inland fisheries and 28 per cent in industrial fisheries, according to FAO (2018).
“While, figures are often not considered to be very accurate, in general, it is estimated that about 200 million people or about 30% of the continent’s population eat fish as their main source of animal protein and micro-nutrition, according to NEPAD (2017). Fisheries also provide livelihoods for over 10 million Africans, many of whom are small-scale operators, supplying food to local and sub-regional markets. In addition, the value added by the fisheries and aquaculture sector as a whole in 2017 was estimated at more than US$ 24.0 billion, 1.26 per cent of the GDP of all African countries.
“At the same time, the fisheries sector is one of the main pillars for supporting coastal livelihoods, providing more than 61,000 direct and 540,000 indirect employment opportunities, mainly in the small scale sector. Senegal’s harbours host one of the largest small scale fleets in Africa, operating in Senegal and other countries of the sub-region. Access to resources in Senegal is largely unregulated for the small scale sector,” The Afreximbank boss said.
“It is pertinent to note that a large portion of global tourism is focused on the marine and coastal environment and this is set to rise in the future, further presenting more opportunities for the growth in the Blue Economy. Tourism also includes cruise tourism, which is currently the fastest-growing sector in the leisure travel industry.
“Furthermore, in 2018, the total contribution of travel and tourism to employment in Africa, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry was 7.1 per cent of total employment (20,481,500 jobs). This is expected to rise by 1.0 per cent to 20.7 million jobs in 2015 and further to rise by 2.3 per cent per annum to 26 million by 2025.
“Furthermore, in terms of numbers, Africa receives more tourists than the Caribbean, Central America and South America combined. This development makes a strong case for increased investment in tourism. Tourism creates jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurship, reduces poverty, promotes stability, preserves heritage and culture and builds global connection according to the African Union, Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy.
“The exploitation of ocean-based energy resources, which is also a component of the BE is growing in importance and presents a great opportunity for coastal African countries. In 2009, offshore fields accounted for 32 per cent of worldwide crude oil production and this is projected to rise to 34 per cent in 2025 as almost half the remaining recoverable conventional oil is estimated to be in offshore fields – a quarter of that in deep water, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
‘‘This is supported by deep offshore water exploration by the recently deployed EGINA FPSO assembled in Lagos, Bonga Field drilling, Tubu field drilling etc.
“It is estimated that the BE in certain African countries contributes as much as 27 per cent of revenues and 33 per cent of total export revenues. In all, fisheries alone are reported to provide livelihoods to over 10 million men and women engaged in catching, processing and trading in Africa. Many of these people are small-scale operators supplying food to local and sub-regional markets. Furthermore, it is estimated that at least 58.3 million people are engaged in fisheries and aquaculture in Africa.
“Africa has an important coastline, which is equivalent to approximatively 40,000km, and if it’s appropriately developed with the right infrastructure, it would benefit the countries and their economies and have an impact a significant impact on Africa’s development.
“Noting the importance of the Blue Economy, the AU at the 22nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa in 2014, pledged to embrace and develop the Blue Economy concept as a vital part of Africa’s future development to be outlined in the AU’s Agenda 2063. Already, countries such as South Africa and Seychelles are developing Blue Economy strategies and, in this connection, are analyzing the economic opportunities for their countries and the continent.
“Key areas such as aquaculture, marine transport and offshore oil and gas exploration are being identified as crucial in growing the BE in the continent.”
According to the Afreximbank boss, some of the Priority sectors for intervention by the Bank are Fisheries and aquaculture (focus on value-adding manufacturing, support to SMEs); Tourism (focus on eco-tourism, marine tourism etc.) Power/energy (focus on renewable energy from the oceans); and Trade supporting infrastructure (including the development of shipping and port facilities, storage facilities, etc).
“Will the oceans that God endowed the African continent with so freely and generously be the tool and leverage for economic emancipation or will it rather be the cemetery burying Africa’s young and agile children seeking to cross into Europe for a better life,” he queried.